Two Catholic nuns left Italy to do mission work in Africa. When they returned, they were pregnant
Nuns walk through Vatican City near St. Peter's Square on February 25, 2013 in Rome, Italy. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Two nuns on a charity mission to Africa have fallen pregnant, leading Roman Catholic Church officials to open an investigation.
The nuns, Fox News reports, were on separate missions in Africa, having travelled to the continent from Sicily, Italy, where their orders are based.
The nuns are both themselves African; one is based in Messina, the other in Ispica. Italy’s Gazzetta del Sud reports that the nuns have been given the choice to leave their orders and raise their kids.
One nun, aged 34, has since been switched to an order in Palermo, the Independent reports. She is said to have complained of stomach pains after returning home from her trip, and then discovered she was expecting after having an ultrasound.
The other, a mother superior whose age remains unclear, is reported to have returned home to Madagascar after also discovering that she was expecting.
Citing an anonymous Rome source, British tabloid the Sun said there was alarm in Church circles over the turn of events.
“An investigation has been launched. They both breached strict rules of chastity but the welfare of their children is uppermost,” the source said.
The Independent reports that Salvatore Riotta, mayor of the Sicilian community of Militello Rosmarino, said he regretted how the news had been handled.
“There is regret for what happened. Our community of 1,200 inhabitants is baffled by the way some have treated the news, not as secretly as it should have been,” he said.
As well as the church probe, local health authorities in Sicily say they will launch their own investigation into how the pregnancies became public.
“I wish to express my solidarity first of all to them and to their respective orders,” wrote health councillor Ruggero Razza on Facebook, according to the Independent.
“I find it unfair that news that should have remained in the privacy of health facilities has become public knowledge.”